A NEW art exhibition, dedicated to the late Sam McLarnon, has prompted calls for a memorial to the Larne artist in recognition of his contribution to promoting the borough in his landscape paintings
Following the official opening of the gallery in Larne Museum, Sam’s great-nephew, photographer Gerry McNally, has written an “open letter of thanks to the people of the town for their support and help”.
Gerry wrote: “I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly thank everyone who contributed to the tribute exhibition to my great-uncle, the late Sam McLarnon.
“In particular, I would like to thank Marian Kelso from Larne Museum and Arts Centre for first approaching me with this idea last year. I know that she has personally put a lot of hard work into collecting a vast array of paintings and mementos highlighting Sam’s long and illustrious career.
“I’d also like to thank the Mayor of Larne, Gerardine Mulvenna, for opening the exhibition. Special gratitude is also due to the Sisters of Drumalis for donating so many pieces of art, some of which may never go on display to the general public again.
“Last but not least, the Parish of Larne for donating a very special and unique piece of artwork documenting a Holy Week service held during the war for American soldiers about to leave their base in Larne for Normandy.
“The response so far in the first week has been amazing and Marian has been in touch with updates informing me that people are still donating paintings and other items for public display.
“Sam was a huge asset to the town of Larne, East Antrim and beyond. His paintings have travelled the world and for many years before the advent of glossy travel brochures and the internet, Sam’s paintings were a unique tourism asset promoting the borough and the Antrim coast around the world and it’s great to see Sam honoured in this way in his home town.
“I have to say that I rather ashamedly had underestimated Sam’s importance, as I always just saw him as my uncle and to some extent took him and his talents for granted.
“In the immediate aftermath of his death, I was truly humbled and surprised by the media interest and the sudden round of interviews I found myself doing, paying tribute to him.
“Indeed it was only in the days preceding the funeral that I and other members of the family became fully aware of Sam’s generosity and his charity work within the borough and beyond. It quickly transpired that Sam had been doing cross-community work in Larne long before the term became fashionable and somewhat overused in this part of the world.
“I myself have long been a supporter of the work that the arts play within communities and do a lot of part-time work in Belfast with various community and arts organisations myself through my photography work and ongoing work with Chaine FM in Larne.
“One of the things that people said to me on the night that the exhibition opened, and afterwards, was how much they would like to see a permanent memorial to Sam in the borough. Perhaps, in due course, this will also happen.”